The Senate, on March 14, passed a two-year bipartisan transportation bill by a vote of 77 to 22. The bill would provide $100 billion worth of funding to build and repair highways, roads, bridges, and transit systems, and is seen as an alternative to legislation previously put forward by the House, which would decimate jobs, the AFL-CIO reports.
The Senate bill, unlike its failed partisan counterpart, would actually create about 200,000 jobs.
Current funding to maintain and develop the nation's roads, bridges, and transportation systems - which many feel are deteriorating - runs out on March 31.
As for the House GOP's partisan alternative - even though the H.R. 7 bill was killed, it could make a comeback, sources say. That piece of legislation would crush labor across the nation; it would fire 2,000 Amtrak food service workers, slash $308 million from Amtrak operating funds, do away with health protections for workers handling hazardous materials, and force outsourcing of DOT engineering jobs.
H.R. 7 "goes down a partisan path that will destroy thousands of jobs," said the AFL-CIO in a letter to representitives. It will "undercut out nation's commitment to mass transit."
The Senate-approved bill now heads to the House, where unions and workers hope it will get passed.
Edward Wytkind, president of the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department, said it will "give public transportation systems and their workers new tools to survive economic downturns."
"Competition in the 21st century requires America to renew the bipartisan consensus in supporting reliable, modern infrastructure," said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. "The Senate has shown leadership, and we hope that the House majority can move past ideological squabbling and follow the Senate's path."
Last week, the Laborers International Union launched a multimedia campaign in order to outline the growing public safety issues caused by crumbling roads and bridges, and transit systems that desperately need improvement. The campaign asks voters to call on Congress Republicans to approve this legislation.
"With this campaign, we're letting Congress know that while they're busy playing politics, Americans are being forced to risk their safety every time they cross a deficient or obsolete bridge," said LIUNA President Terry O'Sullivan.
Those bridges, O'Sullivan noted, have an average lifespan of 45 years, and we are now rapidly approaching the 50-year mark on many of them.
The campaign includes a tongue-in-cheek manual called How to Survive a Bridge Collapse, which it mails to voters in Ohio and Kentucky, the home states of House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, respectively.
LIUNA spokeswoman Jaclyn Houser said those two Republicans are targets of the campaign because "as party leaders, they should be able to bring a bipartisan bill to the floor."
"The Senate has sent a strong message that the needs of our transportation system can trump business-as-usual party politics," Wytkind concluded. "It is time for the House to embrace the same approach and do the right thing for our country."
Photo: People's World